RELIEVED Huddersfield Giants coach Paul Anderson would be forgiven if he consigned the review of this game to the bin and simply just basked in the glow of a much-needed win.
Picking up a first victory of the year at the fourth attempt, ending a five-match losing run dating back to last September and pulling off bottom place in Super League should be reasons for celebration.
However, such was the manner of Huddersfield’s scratchy success against Widnes Vikings, there was still much left to ponder.
They were thankful to a moment of class from captain Danny Brough and two tries from Joe Wardle to eventually make sure late in the second half, but this was still far removed from the side that finished only a point behind leaders St Helens last term.
They host Castleford Tigers – who picked up their first points last night with a stunning 42-14 win over Wigan Warriors – and will need much improvement if they are to build on this.
Anderson largely kept faith with the squad that fell 28-24 at Leeds a week earlier, full-back Jake Connor the only one to suffer as he was omitted to facilitate Scott Grix’s return.
Former England prop Eorl Crabtree was promoted from the bench, swapping places with Anthony Mullally with Anderson looking to avoid the slow start that left them with so much to do at Headingley. It did not work, though. The Fartowners started like they had never been introduced to the concept of tackling, some of their efforts as flappy as the strong wind that swept around the John Smith’s Stadium.
It was no surprise when Joe Mellor, the effervescent Widnes scrum-half, shrugged off first Wardle and then Brough to score in the 12th minute.
It was already Brough’s fourth missed tackle of the night with shirt-tugging all too prevalent.
Danny Tickle kicked the goal even though it seemed to most people in the 5,452 crowd that he had sliced the simple conversion wide.
Huddersfield were wretched in much of what they did during the first half yet still went in level 6-6 and, realistically, should have been four tries to the good.
However, they seemed to constantly find new ways to butcher clear scoring opportunities against a Widnes side that had emphatically picked up their first win with a 58-16 demolition of Wakefield on Sunday.
Wardle passed into touch when not realising his winger Aaron Murphy had come inside at the crucial moment, before Ukuma Ta’ai failed to see the swathes of unmarked Huddersfield players outside him when he angled in on the last tackle straight into a mass of black and white jerseys.
Brough’s bright midfield break had set that up and when the stand-off then put Shaun Lunt into space after a surging Jermaine McGillvary kick-return had ripped Widnes open, they seemed destined to score.
Murphy did get over but Lunt’s final pass was blatantly forward.
When they did finally draw level, perhaps unsurprisingly, there was very little decision-making required, Brough’s chip ricocheting off Manase Manuokafoa to land straight into the grasp of the onrushing Grix. Brough converted the 31st minute try only to see Jack Hughes blunder at the restart.
Thankfully, there was some precision in the second period although their second try was fortuitous again, Hughes just managing to get his hands on Brough’s long pass, the ball coming loose but rolling to McGillvary who had an open 20m dart to the corner.
However, there was no doubting the class of Brough’s involvement just after the hour when he moved into dummy-half and exposed some slow marker defence to weave 40m up centre field and send Wardle in with a difficult pass.
The Scotland star failed with both conversion attempts but at 14-6, and with Widnes’s own game faltering badly, it should have been enough to press on.
Instead, just a couple of minutes later and with his side’s first real threat of the second half, Manuokafoa bundled through some timid tackling in front of the Giants’ posts to score, Tickle’s kick immediately offering them a lifeline.
Wardle added his second, though, with a strong finish and then Brough, typically, came up with the smart pass to put Crabtree in at the finish meaning Widnes still haven’t won at Huddersfield since 1996.
Anderson said: “We talked beforehand about our performances, or rather the lack of them.
“I still don’t think the performance was there, but we ground a win out in difficult conditions against a good footballing side.
“I thought we were nervous and edgy. But at half-time we told the players to put the muscle in and keep knocking the sets out.
“And Danny Brough demonstrated the reasons why he’s captain.”
Huddersfield Giants: Grix; McGillvary, Cudjoe, Wardle, Murphy; Brough, Ellis; Huby, Lunt, Crabtree, Ferres, Hughes, Ta’ai. Substitutes: Wood, Kopczak, Lawrence, Mullally.
Widnes: Hanbury; Flynn, Dean, Phelps, Ah Van; Brown, Mellor; O’Carroll, White, Dudson, Clarkson, Tickle, Cahill. Substitutes: Manuokafoa, Kavanagh, Heremaia, Galea.
Referee: B Thaler (Wakefield).